Federal report shows drops in infant mortality, preterm birth rates

WASHINGTON — The infant mortality rate, the preterm birth rate and the adolescent birth rate all continued to decline, average mathematics scores increased for 4th and 8th grade students, the violent crime victimization rate among youth fell, as did the percentage of young children living in a home where someone smoked, according to the federal government’s annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation’s children and youth.

However, the percentage of children living in poverty increased, and the percentage of children with at least one parent employed full time, year-round decreased, the report said.

Report

These and other findings are described in America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012. The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies that produce and use data on issues related to children and families.

The report uses the most recently available and reliable official federal statistics to describe the family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health of America’s children and youth.

“This year’s report contains good news about newborns,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Fewer infants were born preterm and fewer died in the first year of life.”

Risk factor

The report notes that infants born preterm or of low birth weight are at high risk of early death and long-term health and developmental problems.

“The findings in this report, drawn from many outstanding data systems across the federal spectrum, allow us to track key progress in the fight against many major public health threats, such as meningitis, for example,” said Edward Sondik, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“The report shows that in the last five years there has been more than a five-fold increase in the percent of adolescents who have received the vaccination that helps prevent meningococcal disease — a serious bacterial illness and leading cause for the most dangerous form of meningitis.”

Two reports

The Forum alternates publishing a detailed report, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, with a summary version that highlights selected indicators. This year, the Forum is publishing America’s Children in Brief; it will publish the more detailed report in 2013.

New to this year’s report is a figure showing the percentage of children in race groups constituting less than 10 percent of the population (American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, or two or more races).

This detailed figure is available only online at http://childstats.gov. It supplements figure 1 in this year’s brief, which shows the percentage of children by race and Hispanic origin. Also new is a revised figure showing the percentages of high school graduates who completed selected mathematics and science coursework.

Report findings

A drop in births to adolescents, from 20 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 to 17 per 1,000.

A drop in the proportion of infants born before 37 weeks’ gestation (preterm), from 12.2 percent to 12.0 percent.

A drop in deaths before the first birthday, from 6.4 per 1,000 births to 6.1 per 1,000 births.

A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with at least one parent employed year round full time, from 72 percent to 71 percent.

A rise in the proportion of children from birth to 17 years of age living in poverty, from 21 percent to 22 percent.

A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living in households classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as food insecure, from 23 percent to 22 percent.

An increase in vaccination coverage with one dose or more of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine for adolescents ages 13 -17, from 12 percent to 63 percent.

A drop in the proportion of youth ages 12-17 who were victims of serious violent crimes, from 11 per 1,000 youth ages 12-17 to 7 per 1,000.

A drop in the percentage of children, birth to 6 years of age, living in a home where someone smoked regularly, from 8.4 percent to 6.1 percent.

An increase of one point in the average mathematics scores for both 4th and 8th graders from 2009 to 2011.

A drop in the percentage of youth ages 16-19 neither enrolled in high school or college nor working, from 9 percent to 8 percent.

A rise in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living in counties in which levels of one or more air pollutants were above allowable levels, from 59 percent to 67 percent.

(Source: National Institutes of Health)

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